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The sins of the heavyweights

In the five years since the Earth Summit in Rio, the world's governments are failing to meet the global warming reduction goals agreed upon by 100 international leaders. Worldwatch's "State of the World 1997" also notes that humans have grown in total numbers by 450 million, vast areas have been stripped of forests and annual emissions of greenhouse gas have climbed to all-time highs.

Worldwatch, in this eighth annual report, also lists the eight countries that shape the global environment, the environmental heavyweights or the "E8" : the US, China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, Japan and Germany. Together they emit 58% of the world's carbon dioxide and have 56% of the world's population, says the annual report, released in January.

However, the US has faded from its traditional role as environmental leader while Germany and other European countries are taking the lead, it says. "Carbon dioxide emissions per person in Europe are only about half the US level," state the authors, Chris Flavin and Hilary French.

Ironically, it may be China, India and other developing countries that force the industrialised world to recognise that their economies are not sustainable, continues the report. "The World Bank, which loans roughly $20 million to developing countries each year, is key to achieving a more sustainable economic system in poor nations." But the bank, it says, actually lends large sums to projects that increase carbon emissions and that destroy natural ecosystems.

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